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Secret Service Scandal Continues; Republicans Target Food Stamps; Terror Suspect on Trial; Obama on Gas Prices; Discovery's Farewell Flight

Aired April 17, 2012 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour here. Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

It's being called the biggest scandal for the Secret Service ever. And now 11 agents and officers have had their security clearances yanked after what allegedly happened at the Hotel Caribe in Colombia just a day before the president's arrival in the country. President Obama did not stay at this particular hotel.

However several news reports do say that the president's schedule was in the room, actual schedule was in the room when the prostitutes allegedly visited. "The Washington Post" is reporting as many as 21 prostitutes were brought to this hotel. "The Post" is also reporting that some of the agents paid the owners of local strip clubs for the women and the next day, one of these prostitutes refused to leave the hotel room saying she was owed another $170.

CNN learned she then did go to police and that's what triggered the investigation. The Pentagon says as many as 10 members of the military possibly played a part in this misconduct as well.

Joining me live is former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who is now running for U.S. Senate in Maryland.

Dan, I do understand first off that your brother is in the service, not being investigated as part of this scandal. I just want to be totally transparent and clear on that. Can I just hear you confirm that?

DANIEL BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Yes, we have been very open and honest from the start that we had personal relationships with a number of people, not just family, but friends involved in the investigation as well. He is not being investigated for those specific allegations.

But I can't really comment any further, unfortunately, but I would be happy to talk about an umbrella view of this situation.

BALDWIN: Yes. Let me begin with, having been in the Secret Service yourself, how long has this been going on? I'm talking prostitutes specifically. This can't just be the first time. This has to be perhaps just the first time they got caught.

BONGINO: I have been to 27 countries. I was the lead advance in three foreign countries for the president of the United States. And I can tell you, I have never heard of an incident like this happening on the trip. Listen, I don't know what happened in the past and people didn't get caught for. You can never prove the counterfactual. I don't know that.

But I know I have never seen it, I have never heard of it on trips I have been on. And if you do the math here, if you figure 27 countries, roughly 200 advance team members in each country, I have never heard of this before. This is an embarrassment, it's a disgrace. I have been clear about that from the start.

Me being a former Secret Service agent, I'm still proud, I'm proud of the agency. There are a lot of good men and women who work there. And unfortunately this small group of people have really tarnished us for a while. And I hope America can forgive the agency.

BALDWIN: Dan, when did you leave the Secret Service, was it a year ago?

BONGINO: May will be a year, yes.

BALDWIN: So just about a year ago. So you're pretty fresh off the Secret Service and your tour with them.

Did you know any of the guys involved, any of the other guys involved?

BONGINO: Yes. I know really everyone involved from the investigators to the folks being investigated to the folks who were in country providing information about what happened.

Yes. These are personal relationships. Some are neighbors to this day. And that's what makes this just really an emotionally devastating situation for me personally and professionally. It really hurts.

BALDWIN: Without giving it too much away, because I know you can't and this is an open investigation, but how are they handling this? Are they devastated? Are they embarrassed? Are they married?

BONGINO: I don't know if all of them are married, but all of the above, devastation, humiliation, embarrassment. Again, this is a proud agency.

These guys are men and women who stand next to the president of the United States with a loaded firearm and say I go before he does. You're not going to get to him. They disregard political party, ideology. These are men and women, I should add, who are real patriots. And it's unfortunate that this small group of guys have really tarnished the agency.

And I think for a while now, this is unfortunately what's going to be associated with our Secret Service name. You know, there's a lot of people upset about this, retired and active. BALDWIN: It's interesting you use the word tarnish. Obviously they're called the Secret Service because they're secret, right? Nothing about them is supposed to get out. Now you have this splashed all over the papers in the last 48 hours.


BALDWIN: How can the Secret Service, this incredibly elite group of men and women, how do they move forward without being entirely tarnished? What needs to change?

BONGINO: Well, have to tell you on one end, there's no opportunity for them to take a breather here. The Secret Service keeps the president of the United States safe and secure and his family. There's no opportunity to say let's everybody call in the office and let's have a board meeting here. They're planning trips right now for the president of the United States.

America needs to keep that in mind. No one is asking for their sympathy for that. And the second part of your question, I think you're going to see an enhanced training requirement potentially. They were very clear when I was there as to what the rules were, but maybe you will see it made a little more robust at this point. Maybe some new revised procedures as to overseas conduct. That's the best I can guess.

BALDWIN: When we hear about the news now that they're losing their security clearance, what does that really mean? And then how would that affect their careers from here on out?

BONGINO: You can't be a Secret Service agent without a top- secret clearance. You can lose a clearance and you can get a clearance back pursuant to an investigation.

It's pretty standard at this point. You will lose your clearance during the course of an investigation. Then, when the events unfold and the service is comfortable their investigation is complete and thorough, some will get it back, some won't. Some will get their jobs back and some won't. So that's pretty standard.

BALDWIN: And if they don't, what does a Secret Service agent who is trained, I imagine so much training involved in this, this is what they do, what do you do next?

BONGINO: That's a good question. You're traveling around the world with the president of the United States as a proud, noble profession, not that there's not other professions out there that should be equally as proud.

But there's not a close second, I don't think, for the excitement and the thrill of being a Secret Service agent. The answer is I don't know what comes next for them and that's unfortunate.

BALDWIN: Daniel Bongino, thanks for coming on.

BONGINO: You're very welcome. BALDWIN: Coming up next, House Republicans they want to cut billions of dollars in food stamps. We will talk about who exactly in terms of numbers this would impact and why my next guest calls this whole suggestion appalling -- back in 60 seconds.


BALDWIN: House Republicans are rolling out these new proposed cuts to the social safety net to try to avoid cuts to the budget at the Pentagon.

Among their new target, food stamps here. Their new budget proposal calls for 10-year cuts to the food stamp program. It's actually called SNAP -- 10-year cuts totaling in the ballpark of $134 billion. And a lot of these Republicans are saying the food stamp program has gotten way too big and there are folks receiving food stamps who could probably do without them.

I know you have a lot of other folks who are saying, hang on, those food stamps, the cuts specifically would affect a lot of kids in our country.

Let's go to Washington and talk to Ed Cooney, executive director of the Congressional Hunger Office here.

And, Ed, 10-year cuts totalling $134 billion, give me some numbers. Who exactly would this affect? How many?

EDWARD COONEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL HUNGER OFFICE: This would affect several million low-income SNAP households.

I think you're talking about a proposal that passed as part of the Ryan budget that would cut $129 billion over a 10-year period by block granting this particular program. In other words, it return it to the jurisdiction of the states. They would also cut some low- income home energy cuts.

I think I should also point out though that tomorrow morning, they're going to cut an additional $33 billion that has not gotten the press this other cut has. And they indicated that there will be no harm involved. No one will be hurt because these are technical cuts. I would just like to say to you if you hear that expression from Congress, no one will be harmed, that's your first notice that you should be running for cover.

BALDWIN: Well, when you mentioned millions of people would be affected, I imagine in that millions we're talking millions of children.

And you do have, as we talk millions, record numbers of people who are in the SNAP, the food stamp program. The numbers they began spiking -- when you look back here, they spiked during the great recession. Then you look from 2007 to today, we have seen the food stamp rolls go from 27 million to 47 million.

At the same time, though, the dollar cost to the federal government has more than doubled. Doubled. So you have $33 billion and that was in '07 when things really started getting tough, all the way now to $76 billion this year. And let me ask you this, though, because how much of this is due to fraud?

They point out there is certainly fraud when with regard to this particular program. You have people coming out essentially renting out their food cards, getting these food stamps but then buying food for someone else.

COONEY: I think you should check with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But my information is that it is less than 1 percent related to fraud. These are -- people who are committing fraud are actual criminals. And 99 percent of the program benefits go to basically -- well, 51 percent go to children themselves. About 7 percent or so go to the elderly. And a significant percentage go to disabled people.

These are some of the poorest people on the planet. A family of four, you know, meeting the poverty line of $23,000 really doesn't have a whole lot of money to spare. But you're talking about a population that's primarily made up of children, elderly and disabled.

And you mentioned 2007. That makes sense because, you know, that was before the recession.


BALDWIN: That's when the economy started to take the turn.


COONEY: Yes. Food stamps follows unemployment. When unemployment rises, food stamp participation rises. When unemployment falls, SNAP participation falls.

BALDWIN: Let's pick up with 2007, because I want to show the graphics again. It shows food stamp rolls as we mentioned nearly doubling since 2007. Republican budget cutters, they're take a look at these numbers and they say that goes to show more people are relying on government handouts and the food stamp handout has expanded way beyond what it was intended to do. That's what the Republicans are saying. That's why they're calling on these cuts.

What do you say to that, Ed?

COONEY: I think the program is performing as it should. It's the only program we have, the federal nutrition program, that provides resources for all participants. You have, as I have indicated, elderly, children and disabled. But you also have homeless people and single-parent households.

The fact is the economy is in the tank and people need nutrition assistance. It just seems odd when you look at the Agriculture Committee members, the Food Research and Action Center just did a survey. One in five members of households in their districts of House Agriculture members indicate they are struggling with hunger.


BALDWIN: I think a lot of these Republicans would agree with you. They want to continue to help folk, but they also say perhaps there's a little bit of fraud. We will check the Department of Ag site and see if that less than 1 percent number is correct.

In the meantime, we will see where this goes, if anywhere.

Ed Cooney in Washington, Ed, thank you.

COONEY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Speaking of scandals here, scandal surrounding former football coach Bobby Petrino and his alleged mistress has "football chicks" talking. One woman, she penned quite article, says this hurts all women in sports. My next guest disagrees. Back in 70 seconds.


BALDWIN: Here's what a lot of you are talking about today. It is trending.

The woman who did not work for Bobby Petrino, didn't work for him, the former football coach from the University of Arkansas. Her name is Christianne Harder. She wanted the job that Jessica Dorrell now has, student development coordinator for Arkansas's football program.

However, Dorrell is now on paid leave after the university says it learned Petrino was having an affair with her while he recommended her for the job. Petrino has been fired.

In this article for "Sports Illustrated," a young woman by the name of Christianne Harder who consults for Western Kentucky's football program writes -- quote -- "How Jessica Dorrell hurt all women trying to work in college football."

Harder ends the article -- quote -- "Perception is reality. Because of Jessica Dorrell's actions, there will be a greater suspicion of all the women who apply and interview for these jobs. Sadly, we don't need another excuse to be unfairly scrutinized."

I want to bring in Nancy Hogshead-Makar. She is a law professor in Florida and senior director of advocacy at the Women's Sports Foundation.

Nancy, you read the article, I read the article. Do you think Christianne is right here? Do you think this 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell totally, totally hurt women trying to get careers in football now?

NANCY HOGSHEAD-MAKAR, WOMEN'S SPORTS FOUNDATION: Well, Christianne working in a "Mad Men" world, where this is a 98 percent male world. So in an environment like that, anything that one woman does or doesn't do reflects off on the larger group. Now, the issue I have with what she said was that she's really focused on the woman rather than thinking about there is no way that this woman, that Jessica would have gotten this job had it not been for her lover.

This is exactly what quid pro quo harassment is all about. I gave you a job in exchange for which you agree to sleep with me.


BALDWIN: I'm glad you bring up that point because when you read Christianne's article -- let me just also add we picked up the phone. I would be loving to Christianne Harder, but she said thanks but no thanks, despite writing this article.

She is angry at this young woman. I wanted to ask you if you think her anger, this blame is misdirected on this young woman. Shouldn't it be on Petrino? He was the guy in charge.


And all kinds of professor, both attorney-client, and physicians, and employer-employee, and the standard rule is there are no romantic or sexual relationships between those in authority and those who are not.

And so, you know, we do that in order to protect the person so that they have to engage in those kinds of relationships in order to get ahead. In other words, you don't have to sleep with the boss in order to get ahead. Remember back 25 years ago, that was standard procedure, that women really did have to put up with a lot.


BALDWIN: So who is to blame here?

HOGSHEAD-MAKAR: Yes. That's why we have these standard norms here.

I would say the person really responsible is -- here is Bobby, that he's the one who made it so that he got her a job that she would not have otherwise had. And of course bystanders get hurt because, hey, I didn't get a job as a result of that. So quid pro quo harassment doesn't just hurt the person who's actually having to be the position of giving up romance and sex, but it also hurts everyone around them.

It's one of the reasons the Women's Sports Foundation is really involved with making sure that club coaches are not involved in romantic relationships with their athletes. Same exact thing. It really hurts the team dynamic when the coach is giving a lot of special attention over here to the one athlete they're having that romantic relationship with.

BALDWIN: Nancy, I want to back to a word you used, standard, because she talks a little bit about her dress standard. There was a couple lines in this article which really jumped out at me. I know you know what I'm talking about.

If you haven't read the article, let me just quote her.

She is talking women and football and obviously minorities. She says this: "Watch what you wear. I wear professional, knee length dresses and heels to the football office. This worked at Stanford. But at Washington, anything dressier than jeans was not OK, as it was seen as a distraction in the office. I soon learned that my best bet was to always wear pants and flats."

It sounds like she was having to sort of curtail, change what she was wearing because of the guys in this football program in the office. How do you feel about what she said and shouldn't it be the other way around?


HOGSHEAD-MAKAR: She has to be hyper-concerned about -- I'm sure just not what she is wearing, but how she appears, how she dresses and everything because, again, she's in a "Mad Men" world of 98 percent men.

But you have got about 50 percent of men who coach women, but less than 2 percent of women can get into the coaching world and get into the football world for coaching men. She has to be hyper- concerned about what it is that she does. As those barriers break down, it will be much less of an issue.

But right now, with the numbers the way they are, rather than blaming another woman who let's face it that Jessica Dorrell would probably not get this job if she had not been sleeping with Bobby Petrino, rather than blaming her, to blame -- she's working in a very macho, sexist culture that doesn't really value having women in it. Otherwise, you would see a lot more women in it.

COOPER: It is an all-male sport. But it's interesting you say "Mad Men" world. We will see if the barriers are broken in this kind of sport.


HOGSHEAD-MAKAR: There are lots of all-women sports that have a lot of men working around it as well.

BALDWIN: There you go. There you go. Can it be equal? I don't know. We will see.


HOGSHEAD-MAKAR: There's no reason why not.

BALDWIN: There you go. Thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: I will tweet out this article from "SI." My Twitter handle @BrookeBCNN. I'm curious to see what you think here.

Nancy, thanks again.

Question for you: Is it ever OK to handcuff a 6-year-old? A 6- year-old? You're going to hear why police did exactly that after this incident at a school.

Plus, a couple sues their landlord because they say their house is haunted. Do they have a case? Do sellers have an obligation to tell you whether a home is haunted? Sunny Hostin, she has the answer. She's next.


BALDWIN: A Georgia police department is standing by its decision to handcuff a 6-year-old.

Kindergartner Salecia Johnson threw this tantrum in school. This is according to the police report. The report goes on to say Johnson began tearing items off the walls, tossing furniture around. Police say they handcuffed the 6-year-old girl both for her safety and the safety of others at the school.

But her parents believe another intervention should have been done first.

Sunny Hostin is on the case.

Sunny, Sunny, this is one thing we immediately started talking about in our morning meeting. We're thinking this day and age, are teachers and a principal so afraid to intervene with a child, to grab a child, that they actually had to call police when this happened?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's pretty remarkable, isn't it?

I was surprise, Brooke, as well when I heard about this. And so I called educators that I know, including my mother, who happens to be director of a nursery school, a principal. And she says this is just not the norm, that there are other things that can be done prior to calling the police, that in all her years of being a director and a principal, she has never had to do this. Of course she says she offers these children jelly beans when they're brought to her office.


HOSTIN: But -- exactly.

But she says there is a hold that you can do to try to calm a child down. She says also that you can call the parent. There are a lot of steps that can be taken prior to police intervention and that this is actually something that is considered very extreme in our educational system. BALDWIN: I think a lot of people would agree with you with that. We do now know the 6-year-old will not be charged. If you thought she might have been, she's not. But is she facing any kind of punishment, do we know?

HOSTIN: We know she's apparently been suspended from the school until August, until August.

And we're talking about a kindergartner. That's a pretty significant, significant thing, significant punishment. It just seems to me, Brooke, that what the patients are calling for, a change in police procedure, perhaps would be appropriate.

The police chief initially said that that is their procedure regardless of age of the person, that they always put handcuffs on someone that is in their police car. I think the real question is should she ever have been placed in a police car? But the parents are calling at least for a change in procedure because handcuffing a 6- year-old is just, in my law enforcement experience, just remarkable.

BALDWIN: Sounds a tad extreme. A tad.

HOSTIN: A tad.

BALDWIN: Let's get to this one. This is a haunted house.

This New Jersey couple says they have this real horror story on their hands. They're suing a landlord, claiming paranormal activity has forced them from their home, just after living there for something like a week.

Paranormal activity, do they actually have a case?

HOSTIN: That's right.

You know, I don't think they do have a case. And let's face it. There are renters that sue their landlord all the time, each and every day. And, sometimes, they're successful for -- when they sue for constructive eviction, meaning it's just uninhabitable. They can't live there. They have rodents. They have no heat, no hot water.

I just don't think that ghosts actually would suffice in terms of winning this sort of constructive eviction lawsuit. I don't think they have a case here, but very, very interesting.

And I think what's also so interesting, Brooke, is that in response to this lawsuit, the landlord, who happens to be an orthodontist who has his office right next to this house, has countersued them and said, in fact, what spooked them was not any sort of ghost but, in fact, what spooked them was the cost of the rent, which was $1,500.

BALDWIN: OK. Spooky indeed, Sunny Hostin, thank you very much, on the case for us on this Tuesday.

High school classmates hatching a plan to blow up subways in New York today, a very important witness takes to the stand. Also not too long ago, President Obama said he couldn't do anything about gas prices. Yet today, he announces a plan that targets the market. So why the change? That's next.


BALDWIN: Classmate is set to testify against classmate in this alleged scheme to bomb New York subways. Also today, President Obama pushes stiffer penalties for traders caught manipulating the price of oil. And then some amazing pictures from space we want to share with you. Time to play "Reporter Roulette."

Let's begin in New York with Susan Candiotti. Susan, what do we know, what are we learning about this would-be bomber on the stand?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the mastermind of the New York City subway plot that was supposed to take place on September 11, 2009. This is Najibullah Zazi.

This is the man who's already admitted that he was the one that dreamed up this plot involving him and two other people who were supposed to fill their backpacks with explosives, get on board some subway trains and blow themselves up.

Luckily the FBI found out about this literally days before the attack was supposed to happen. And Brooke, the importance of this case is this is the biggest and closest deal, plot, that Al Qaeda had since the anniversary of 9/11 where they actually came closest to carrying out an attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

Now right now Zazi has been on the stand for a little over an hour. We're still waiting for him to get into the details of that day. But so far he's had some chilling things to say, for example, about what he thought about 9/11.

He said, my view is 9/11, the people behind it, was America itself. And he is here to testify against one of the other two people in the plot. The other one has already pleaded guilty, Brooke.

BALDWIN: As we wait to get some of those details, as he's on the stand, what does he get in return for his testimony, Susan?

CANDIOTTI: Well, certainly he is cooperating and acknowledges he's been cooperating with the government. He hasn't been sentenced yet. So it's very clear and very likely he might be able to shave some time off.

And if not that, perhaps get to stay in a prison, get to do his time more or less in some place other than the supermax prison, which is maximum security with very tight restrictions that's located in Colorado. We should say as well the third defendant in this case, the only one who has not pleaded guilty, says he didn't do it but he tried to drop out of the plot and he claims is not a terrorist. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Susan Candiotti for us in New York, thank you, Susan. Next on "Reporter Roulette," let's go to the White House, the chief correspondent there, Jessica Yellin. Tell me a little bit about the president's message today. What was his plan to crack down on the oil speculators?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. That's right. At the White House, the president saying part of the high price of oil is attributable to folks who are trading in oil driving up prices and he wants Congress to pass new laws that would increase some of the penalties on these guys, increase -- put more cops on the beat to watch them and watch -- put more data in place so they can see how these folks are manipulating oil prices and costing us more at the pump. Here's the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't afford a situation where speculators artificially manipulate markets by buying up oil, creating the perception of a shortage and driving prices higher, only to flip oil for a quick profit.

We can't afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions while millions of American families get the short end of the stick. That's not the way the market should work.


YELLIN: Now, Brooke, I can already tell you, this is likely not going anywhere in Congress. Speaker Boehner told our Deirdre Walsh that he wonders where the agencies are. If this is already taking place why aren't they cracking down on it already.

And the president has a task force that's been in place for a year to crack down on energy fraud. They haven't brought any charges against any individual or firm in that time, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So then may I ask, what is the point here?

YELLIN: Well it's tax day. People are frustrated about the high price of gas and Wall Street is a very, very easy target and one that makes the president draw an easy contrast with none other than Mitt Romney, who the campaign likes to draw contrasts with. They like to tie him to Wall Street and say that the president is on the side of the middle class.

So I would point out that in past times, the president has said the price of high gas is because of Middle Eastern unrest, that in the future it will be because of China and Brazil. So the bottom line here is it's very hard for a president to fix the high price of gas. Got to find someone to blame. I guess today it's speculation. Independent analysts, by the way, say this isn't a bad idea, it's just not the fix.

BALDWIN: Well, the president himself said not too long ago, there is no silver bullet, alas.

YELLIN: He said that again today, basically.

BALDWIN: There we go. Jessica Yellin at the White House, Jessica, thank you. And amazing pictures from space. I'm not talking about the space shuttle Discovery. That was amazing as well. That was in space. Next on "Reporter Roulette," I was totally up this morning watching all of that. Like the space geek that I am. But let's talk the solar flares.


BALDWIN: So cool.

MYERS: Unbelievable shots. You know, we have these great cameras now --

BALDWIN: It's amazing.

MYERS: The technology -- no, I bought an $89 Canon camera with 12.5 megapixels.


MEYERS: You know, just the -- it takes amazing pictures. Think about what the government can do with a little bit more money than $89 and the pictures they can take. And take a look at some of this stuff.

BALDWIN: This, let's show it.

MYERS: Time lapse of this explosion coming out of the sun. That's a CME, coronal mass ejection, when x-rays came flying out, full of leptons, plasma, all kinds of stuff come flying out of there, coming out of the magnetic part of the sun. And it just all exploded off to the left. That is not the direction of the Earth.

When it explodes off to the right, then we have to be concerned because some of that can approach the Earth. This one will not approach the Earth, although it is kind of heading towards that thing that's going towards Mars. You know, that lunar, that rover. It's kind of headed to that. And NASA's a little bit concerned because the plasma's headed that way, but they'll be okay.

BALDWIN: OK, I was about to say, these are just nice innocuous picture, but maybe not. We'll find out. Meantime, Saturn pictures?

MYERS: Cool Cassini stuff. Cassini space --

BALDWIN: Cassini?

MYERS: It's been out there forever taking amazing pictures and now it was only 46 miles from the moon Enceladus. So here we go, this is what Cassini looks like. It's been out there for years and years, but finally getting amazing shots. There's the spacecraft right there, taking a number -- not just photographs, but images of different things and different colors. Seeing different temperatures even on the moon there, Enceladus. Here's one of the things -- we didn't know this was this brilliant, but there are geysers or plumes coming out of these moons, where there's actually liquid water below the surface being squirted out like -- literally like the geysers in Yellowstone National Park.

There is liquid water below the surface of some of the moons out there around Saturn (inaudible).

Who knew? And for your Tuesday night trivia, thank you, Seth (ph), who is in the studio. There are 60 moons around Saturn.

MYERS: There you go.

BALDWIN: There you go. Chad Myers, thank you. That's your "Reporter Roulette."

Speaking of space, it has been more times than any other American space shuttle, but today, a fascinating moment as Discovery takes its final ride onboard, piggybacking on this Boeing 747. You're going to see this next.


BALDWIN: The space shuttle Discovery completes its farewell flight today. As it does so, so many of you I know are looking up and down the East Coast, all the way from Kennedy Space Center up to Washington. John Zarrella from the spot here where the journey started, Kennedy Space Center.

Hey, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, you know, Discovery left here just before 7:00 am Eastern time at the Kennedy Space Center on the back of that 747.

And just about four hours and 10 minutes to the second, landing at Dulles Airport outside of Washington after flying around the Washington area for at least 45 minutes, making two or three low passes over Dulles before actually settling down on the runway there.

Of course, Discovery had flown 39 shuttle missions. It had flown more than 148 million miles in all those missions. It was clearly the most iconic of all the space shuttle vehicles. In fact, it flew both of NASA's return to flight missions after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

It had had quite a history. In fact, you know, I talked to the commander, who -- here at the Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana (ph), who actually flew Discovery as a pilot twice. And Cabana (ph) was with me when it lifted off here. And he actually teared up.

He said, you know, I did not think it would come to this again. I thought I had all this in the past behind me, but once again he teared up. That's the way many, many people feel here at the Kennedy Space Center that, you know, this is really a tough thing for them to say goodbye to these shuttle orbiters. Brooke?

BALDWIN: And we'll look for it, one more, the space shuttle's going to New York via the Hudson. John Zarrella, thanks for the pictures today. Just into us here at CNN, we're getting word that a Fort Bragg soldier is missing and police say she may be in danger. That's next.


POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Time now for the "Help Desk," where we get answers to your financial questions. Joining me this hour, Gary Schatsky, is a financial planner and president of Carmen Wong Ulrich is the president of Alta Wealth Management. Thank you both for coming in.


HARLOW: Gary, first question, for you. John in Georgia wrote in that he wants to start a college savings plan for his grandson and he wants to know where his options are.

GARY SCHATSKY, FINANCIAL PLANNER AND PRESIDENT OF OBJECTIVEADVICE.COM. Great. Well, first of all, I would add my son to that list so we can set up two of each. So you've got a lot of choices.

First of all, the simple one is you can certainly set it up as an UGMA or UTMA, a gift to minors type of an account. Of course, the downside of that is the child then has access to it at either 18 or 21 in most states.

HARLOW: Whether they go to college or not?

SCHATSKY: Precisely right. But the interesting thing about that is the first set of interest dividends and capital gains will be tax free, close to $1,000, so you can have each and every year have the money grow on a tax-free basis, which could be attractive but you don't have control. The other fantastic choice is a 529 college savings plan.

Each state has these 529 plans. The beauty of them is the money grows tax deferred and if it's used for college, there's no tax on the growth. And some states give you an extra tax incentive to participate.

HARLOW: All right. And, Carmen, your question comes from Beverly in California. Beverly wrote in, we're going through a short sale. How can we prevent our credit score from imploding?

ULRICH: Oh, my dear. That may not be preventable. However, on your credit report it will be noted that this is a settled debt. So there will be a difference. You'll be able to show lenders in the future, that this was not something you walked away from.

You didn't foreclose on the house. You didn't walk away from your debt. You actually got it settled. So that's very important to understand. Because when it comes to buying a new home or getting a new loan, you're about five years more likely -- let's put it this way -- two years to get a new home if you short sale, probably five to seven maybe if you walk away.

So it looks better on your credit report, your credit score will need to recover, but the sooner you do it, the sooner it will recover.

HARLOW: All right. Great advice, guys. Thank you.

If you've got a question you want answered, send an e-mail anytime to


BALDWIN: Just into us here at CNN this young soldier is missing and police believe she may be in danger. She is 23-year-old Private Kelly Bordeaux. She was last seen Saturday. She is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Private Bordeaux, she is blond, 5 feet tall, last seen wearing a pink top and black shorts.

And now we go to Wolf Blitzer, who has taken a bit of a field trip. Wolf, Secretaries Panetta and Clinton live in your town. Why did you have to go to Brussels?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: They invited me to come over. I'm going to be speaking with both the secretary of state and the Secretary of Defense. We'll have a joint interview tomorrow at NATO headquarters right outside of Brussels. I'm in Brussels right now. I just got off the plane literally, Secretary Panetta's plane.

We flew in from Andrews Air Force Base early this morning and just got here ready to do this show. There's a big NATO defense ministerial and foreign ministerial joint meeting tomorrow to deal with the future of Afghanistan, which is a subject, obviously, close to my heart and close to the viewers' hearts.

More than 10 years now that U.S. troops have been stuck in Afghanistan. U.S. spending is hard to believe, $2 billion a week, more than $100 billion a year to maintain about 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. A lot of them are supposed to stay through the end of 2014. Major decisions are going to be made tomorrow here at the NATO summit.

Also in Chicago, there's a big summit coming up in May. So we're all over that and I'm looking forward to having a joint interview with Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton, lots of questions not only about Afghanistan, but Syria, Iran, North Korea and lots of good stuff to talk about. We'll have that interview tomorrow.

In the meantime we got a lot of news coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM" today. But it's always good to get outside of Washington a little bit, but Brussels, Belgium, it's a little bit -- it's really outside of Washington, but it's good to be here.

BALDWIN: It's lovely to see you there. It's a beautiful city. I've been there. We'll look forward to interviews, Wolf Blitzer. We'll see you at the top of the hour from Belgium. And tonight, President Obama welcomes a special guest to the White House. A guest who has got a history of losing his temper. Brianna Keilar (inaudible) "Political Pop" with us today. She's next.


BALDWIN: Forget low favorability ratings. One issue Mitt Romney can't seem to shake is the treatment of his pooch. Famous, during a road trip, I'm talking decades ago, the story goes like this. Romney put the Irish setter in a kennel, strapped him to the roof of his family station wagon for his trip to Canada (inaudible) the 1980s.

Animal rights groups, they were outraged. Newt Gingrich actually made an attack ad out of this story, but the Romneys have largely avoided discussing the topic until this interview with ABC News, where Romney says the dog won't be riding on the roof again, and we also get some -- oh, shall we call them unnecessary details on the story. Roll it.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC HOST: Would you do it again?

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Certainly not with the attention it's received.

SAWYER: You said it was the most wounding thing in the campaign trail.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: It was crazy. The dog loved it.

SAWYER: But the dog got sick, right?

A. ROMNEY: Once. We travel all the time and he ate the turkey on the counter. I mean, he had the runs.


BALDWIN: And now we know.

Let's move on. The first lady, she showed off her prom dress and NASCAR rolls to the White House. Let's bring in Brianna Keilar. If you don't know, she is our resident NASCAR junkie. Bri, we're going to talk motor sports in a second. First, I love this back and forth with Ellen and the first lady and I'm going to guess that Mrs. Keilar would not have let you out of that house with that slit.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm not so sure about this. Yes, this is a dress that Michelle Obama wore to her prom as an 18-year old, and I don't know about you, Brooke, but I think it's a natural fear of all women that their high school dance pictures will be widely distributed, but that is exactly what Ellen DeGeneres did to the first lady when she had her on her show.

This was a segment that was taped while the first lady was in Florida with military families. Here it is.


ELLEN DEGENERES, COMEDIAN: I want to show you my prom picture first. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Excellent picture. Love the dress.

DEGENERES: Thank you very much.

M. OBAMA: Love the dress.

DEGENERES: Thank you very much. That was a tablecloth at one point.


DEGENERES: Now I heard you have a good one, too, so I thought I would share yours.


M. OBAMA: That split was a little high.


M. OBAMA: I don't know if I'd let my kids go out with a split that high.

DEGENERES: No, that's --

M. OBAMA: Let's not show this to Malia and Sasha.


KEILAR: And Brooke, I suppose that's when I was buying dresses that's why my mom said sit down in it, honey, and see how it looks, right?

BALDWIN: I was just thinking I could hear my mom say, can you dance in that? I don't think so. That's not going on you.

Let's talk NASCAR. This is in your wheelhouse. I know you were e-mailing me early this morning about this. So in about an hour or so, White House is hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. What's the plan?

KEILAR: Yes, well so this is an event honoring last year's champion, Tony Stewart. We call him Smoke, we NASCAR fans, because of his sometimes hot temper. And we went out to the South Lawn, Brooke, just to get all look at the setup there for this event. It's not just Tony Stewart. It's a number of other top NASCAR drivers.

And like in other sports a lot of them do a lot of charity work. So President Obama will be there honoring Tony Stewart and also all of the community involvement that NASCAR executives and drivers do.

And I have to tell you, in a town where Democrats and Republicans do not agree on a whole lot, it appears NASCAR is one of the things that they do because Tony Stewart went up to The Hill, hung out with Speaker John Boehner for a little bit. We got a picture from his office. You can see there.

BALDWIN: There you go. Very nice.

KEILAR: So, you know, everyone loves NASCAR. Well, you know, some people do, but Democrats and Republicans here in Washington do.

BALDWIN: Ten seconds. You going to get to say hey to the Smoke?

KEILAR: I hope so, yes, I think it will work out with my live shot schedule. I always miss things normally, but I think I'm going to make it this time.

BALDWIN: Very good, Brianna Keilar, thank you very much. Good to see you. Good to have you on.

KEILAR: Good to see you.

BALDWIN: And that is it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Now we go to "THE SITUATION ROOM," a special "SITUATION ROOM," Wolf Blitzer live from Brussels, Belgium, tonight.

Hey, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brooke, thanks very much.